POOR IS OKAY. Thomas Merton and St. Francis taught me so.
I keep Thomas Merton's 'No man is an Island' on the bench in the bathroom figuring that we all need to read for a second, relax our nerves which occurs as we turn our busy minds to spiritual thoughts. A book that gives me my pellet of calming, enobling SPIRITUAL RADIATION FUEL for the day is anything THOMAS MERTON ever wrote. I'm next to that bench every morning so that's my opportunity. Today, I flipped to the section on St. Francis embodying the life of Christ better than any saint, the acceptance of a total yet natural poverty, walking around Assisi and environs helping people who were poor and in anguish.
Knowing many families around me are about to lose their home and with compassion for
their LOSING all those super high payments to the banks, those years of
effort, of working hateful jobs for that huge down payment.. and knowing they're
going to lose it all after a 'short sale' where bank alleges 'sorry, we
got nothing, & keeps it all,' and hearing of the tidal wave of firings,
I make a mental link to the poverty of St. Francis' time.
Surely the villagers suffered at times, taxes, failure of crops, life was
rigorous for those who didn't have a palace and army like the Medicis, or
Francis' father. Francis left home, actually after taking off his clothing
and handing it to his father right in the street where Dad had come to
rescue him. He said he'd live on air, thank you very much.
You guys don't mind having fresh air and no roof, do you.
What MAY have sustained that saint in poverty was that he KNEW that
there was WORK TO DO! That there was "a tremendous lot of suffering and
ignorance out there" which needed alleviating, so he felt moved to preach,
to extoll remedies of faith, the whole nine yards of the soulular view. I'm
sure there were many distressed poor then even in fertile Italy.(*13th
It's a known fact that often a poor man living under a tree with his wife,
children, a mess of pottage and some weeds and fresh picked fruit is
healthier and even happier than a millionaire in his mansion, with servants
and payrolls and HMOs and unions beating on his door.
Yet here in Los Angeles, eight foreclosed, jobless parents killed their
entire families, wives and children. The throat slitters accomplished
the deadly deed, those using bullets often left kids in I.C.U's and
all because the family head was facing what St Francis CHOSE..
yet THEY deemed poverty a fate worse than death and murder put together!!!
So my point is, you really want to sniff the air in your village and find out who
is suffering and publish lots of stuff online or wherever your ministry is, talking to
folks at bus stops is a fabulous ministry, but develop that message that reaffirms
to folks that homeless, without any belongings, without roof, without car, without
money is all very ok. A wandering beggar with children would be ADOPTED or taken in
by any family. ADVENTURES like DICKENS couldn't imagine.
Even a lone, wandering man can knock on doors and find garden work.
A sign "I'll work in garden for dinner and a blanket.' would work in any rich
American suburb. It is important to carry the glad word. Poor doesn't hurt.
This too shall pass! Lean times are mean times, our arteries CLEAR when our
diet is alley fruit and salad! And how!
St. Francis was a maverick preacher, not formally trained by any monastery
or church. After a few yrs of his roaming the villages, the Popeinvited him IN
as he was popular but he was just a guy who preached well. Rich, well
educated, but also he had that thing preachers have, a sense of 'there's
litter here in my neighborhood, I might as well pick it up' COMPASSION that
moved him to give the glad word. "Don't bother suffering. Don't make a
drama out of being poor." Francis had a mental view of the big picture and
wanted to alleviate pain and suffering and ignorance, the same 2 things
Buddha identified as the source of ALL problems. NOT the POVERTY, not the
joblessness, not homelessness. Not even being alone as Buddha and Francis
of Assisi were alone. It's a delight to be alone. No, the necessary thing
was JUST get people to..see the big picture. None of it is anything. Stop
making so much of it, folks. Relax into it. The way cats give birth.
Purring. The sun rises and sets on a day with one potato just as it will on
a day with three steaks a martini and a hooker. The flowers smell sweet
both ways though maybe sweeter to the guy with no roof and a lot of fresh
air and no hooker under foot. Much sweeter, but to appreciate that, it helps
to have a few Merton books somewhere you go daily to pick up a 'thought.'
His thoughts really stay with you all day, too!
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